Little more than an unremarkable football field just six months ago, the developing Multi-Sport Facility has emerged into what some officials are calling the most important addition to Georgetown’s campus in recent decades.
Though it is still under construction, Georgetown’s newest athletic facility played host to its second football game of the season this Saturday.
The facility will continue to hold events for the football team and the men’s and women’s lacrosse and soccer teams. With a planned seating capacity of 4,500, Bob Benson, head coach for the Georgetown football team, promises that it will be the new athletic hub of the university upon completion.
“[The MSF] will probably be the most important addition to this campus in the last 50 to 100 years,” Benson said.
Jeanne Fisher-Thompson, interim director of athletic development, called it “a meeting place for students, which is not just for athletics.” Fisher-Thompson said that the field would play host to concerts and other events, as well as provide much-needed “green space” for students.
The MSF has been under construction since April of this year. The current structure only reflects the completion of the first of two main construction phases that have been planned.
“The end product [of the first phase] was an artificial turf field,” Vice President of Facilities and Student Housing Karen Frank said.
“We had to relocate all the facilities under the field,” Frank said, adding that phase one also included laying the foundation for construction during the next phase.
The artificial field itself will be fully convertible – the lines and numbers are painted and thus alterable according to use. The Georgetown logo, however, is permanently stitched into the turf.
According to Frank, the timing on the construction of phase two is dependent on the simultaneous progression of three elements – design, zoning and fundraising. “When those three pieces converge, then we’ll build,” she said.
The more in-depth designs for the second phase of the project are nearly complete. “We’re going along, we’re trying to do the detailed design so we can get better [cost] numbers,” Frank said.
She added that such estimates are important in deciding if costs need to be cut, or if fundraising goals need to be adjusted.
Fisher-Thompson described fundraising for phase two as “on track.”
“We have $20 million more to raise,” said Jeff Donahoe, senior director of advancement communications for the Office of Alumni and University Relations.
Donahoe also said that having the facility partially complete “helps generate interest for new donors.”
According to Fisher-Thompson, the name of the MSF could still be subject to change “if we get a gift of sufficient size which would warrant [it].”
In addition to fundraising success, the completion of the next phase of the MSF is also contingent on approval from the D.C. Zoning Commission and the university’s ability to secure a building permit.
“We have applied for zoning. We don’t have a hearing scheduled yet, but that would be the next phase,” Frank said.
The Zoning Commission must hear from the Advisory Neighborhood Commission prior to making its decision.
“[The ANC’s] support or non-support holds great weight in the decision,” Frank said.
In response to concerns from neighbors about the MSF creating increased area traffic, Frank said that sporting events are “not scheduled so that the traffic is flowing during rush hour.”
She also claimed that most students would walk to the games.
In order to get the required permits for further construction, Georgetown must receive approval from the Old Georgetown Board and the Commission of Fine Arts. However, Frank claims that this should be easier since “they’ve already approved the concept and materials.”
Once permitted, plans for phase two of the construction process, including the completion of the stands, sub-structure spaces, press box, exterior fencing and entry ways, will move forward.
Seating accommodations for fans will be divided between 2,500 home and 2,000 away seats.
“[The stands] will be built as a building structure, like the seats on a side of building,” Frank said.
She added that Georgetown fans will be afforded more comfortable seating, since plans for the visitor stands do not include seat-backs. Space below the stands will be allocated to the construction of locker rooms, team rooms, some athletic offices and possibly weight and training rooms.
The brick fencing that currently runs along the field’s south side will be expanded to all sides of the facility and will be complemented by four entrance ways at the corners of the field.
Phase two also calls for the erection of a new scoreboard. Frank said that the board “would be a lot bigger and more technically advanced than the one we have now.” She said she hoped that the board will be able to flash pictures and possibly show advertising.
The installation of lights, a new sound system and permanent ticket kiosks will also accompany the new scoreboard.
Coach Benson said that new facility is being designed to complement the campus and provide “a sense of history.”
“It absolutely matters that you have great facilities,” he said. Benson added that the MSF, aided by football’s “sense of festival,” could help to strengthen Georgetown’s sense of community.
Benson added that the facility is also important to present and future athletes. “We have had no facilities to recruit with,” he said, adding that recruiters have had to rely solely on the academic reputation and location of Georgetown to draw athletes.
Plans for the MSF also meet NCAA specifications for tournament play.